networking

How informal networking can grow your career

It’s often said that ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ that is significant when it comes to business. Networking and making connections with others has always been an important part of getting ahead in any industry. Recent years have seen a huge increase in business-orientated social media, with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook growing in popularity for both recruitment and networking.

With such advances and changes in working practices, traditional networking may not be as relevant as it once was and informal networking may be the way to further your career.

Whatever industry you are in, networking can be a valuable pursuit in order to get ahead. It can be helpful for hearing about new jobs and developments in companies. So what exactly is informal marketing, how does it work and how is it different?

Just as traditional networking, it is all about contacting, communicating with and getting to know business contacts. In this way, you build up a network of professional contacts with whom you can share valuable information and knowledge The way in which informal networking differs from traditional networking is that it is less structured and doesn’t need to be in a confined professional setting.

Informal networking is more about being open to meeting a range of professionals in a variety of environments and settings. Rather than rushing to exchange business cards with a contact at an organised structured meeting, informal networking is about letting the conversation flow freely and organically in a relaxed environment.

An example of informal networking could be a gala dinner. Such an event might seem like a formal occasion in that the attendees get the chance to don their dinner jackets or ball gowns and enjoy a spectacular multiple course meal. It offers guests the chance to enjoy an evening where the focus is not on professional matters but rather about entertainment.

However, it also affords professionals from all areas and backgrounds the chance to get to meet and integrate with people with whom may not usually have the opportunity to connect. This is just one example of informal networking, but opportunities can be found anywhere and everywhere. Getting to know people around you in settings such as the gym, the local community even the school run, you never know who you may meet or how a relationship could be mutually beneficial.

A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, titled Entrepreneurship and Informal Communities found corroborating evidence that some forms of informal networking can be beneficial. The report found a correlation between success and those entrepreneurs who actively engage in business-related social media such as LinkedIn.

It is thought that this is because of the friendship aspect and sense of community. Often, when networking isn’t enforced and evolves organically, it can involve a deeper connection. The study reports that engaging with like-minded professionals can help “mitigate pitfalls and cultivate creativity and innovation”.

The lesson to take away is that in this day and age, networking need not be confined to business environments. Take opportunities to meet new contacts wherever you are, whatever you are doing and these informal meetings may just make connections that can be beneficial to your career.


Construction site sun set with crane silhouette

The construction industry will hit digital tipping point in 2020

The construction industry has not always been renowned for its innovative approach or its eagerness to embrace digital change and business transformation. However, recent research in the field suggests that 2020 could be the critical year in terms of digital transformation for the construction sector, as challenging areas such as supply chains, productivity and risk management are gradually being addressed.

A new industry report was commissioned by Causeway, a UK construction company, with the aim of assessing how digital innovations were being adopted across the construction industry. The report involved a survey of 200 key decision-makers in the building industry in the UK, including Birmingham City University, Eiffage Kier and Atkins.

The findings of the survey show that 54% of respondents agreed that the construction industry has been relatively slow in the uptake of new technology and the integration of new digital practices. However, despite this acknowledgement, the survey did reveal that there is an optimism and a growing appreciation that investment in digital technology can have a positive effect on business.

70% of respondents reported a positive impact on the project and operational management, with improved flows of data and information. 58% felt that the investment in technology had an impact on recruitment and jobs, with success in attracting and also retaining essential new digital talent.

Advances were also realised in commercial performance, with 54% reporting workforce productivity improvements, 56% reducing their operating costs and 43% seeing business win rates increase. The supply chain was another area to see a positive impact, with 48% feeling that relations within the supply chain were stronger.

There are still challenges in the industry, as respondents reported in the survey. It was felt that there were key areas to be addressed for the industry to really move forward and fully embrace digital transformation. Firstly, there is a need to have a standardisation of technology in the supply chain to aid cohesion. The workforce is another area which requires focus as there is a necessity to develop a new workforce that is digitally driven and diverse.

Lastly, there is a need to increase profitability so that continued investment in the digital transformation is possible. Phil Brown, the Chief Executive of Causeway, cited this as one reason why the industry has lagged behind technologically, specifically mentioning the cycle of low-productivity and low-profitability as challenges to the industry.

Notwithstanding this, an encouraging 81% of respondents in the survey reported that they would, in fact, be making greater efforts to implement digital changes and improvements to their businesses in the construction industry within the next 12 months. In order to fully embrace the technologies and digital transformation, it is necessary to harness and employ web-enabled, intuitive, mobile technology that allows data to be easily accessed and shared on the front line and all the way through the business.

Time will tell exactly how and when the industry fully embraces digital transformation, but as Phil Brown says “in today’s mobile and digitally-enabled world, success will increasingly be found”.